2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback XSE new car reviews

Good news, everyone: The stick is not dead. The new Toyota Corolla Hatchback can be ordered with a six-speed manual transmission–and, as the name suggests, it’s available in a hatchback, a fan favorite going back decades.

This manual transmission even gets a special name: iMT, short for Intelligent Manual Transmission. What makes it so smart? Rev-matching.

According to Toyota, it’s not only smart, it’s all new: “Compared to the existing manual transmission, the new gearbox is lighter (by 15 pounds; total weight of 88 pounds) and shorter (by 0.94 inches), making it one of the world’s smallest transmissions. Its small size contributes to improved fuel efficiency.”

What else is new? Well, the Corolla Hatchback has returned to the model lineup. Okay, it’s a five-door hatchback vs. the old-school three-door, but still, that’s cool, right? Underneath you’ll find struts up front along with a multi-link rear suspension.

Now the big letdown: Sadly, we have yet to drive the stick shift model, as our tester featured the CVT.

Other staff views

J.G. Pasterjak JG Pasterjak
Production/Art Director

The latest Corolla–especially in hatchback form–is so tantalizingly close to being an A+ compact I’m tempted to overlook the few flaws separating it from true econobox greatness.

Dynamically it’s a delight. The Corolla feels small in all the best ways–easy to place in traffic or a parking lot, good visibility and feel for where the corners of the car are–but never feels cramped or overly compact.

The hatch is a nice touch in a world that seemingly forgot how awesome hatchbacks were for a while, and turns an already economical small car into a useful economical small car. Even the transmission–some sort of CVT that bills itself as a nine-speed auto–feels and acts more like something from Toyota’s Lexus lineup rather than on one of the most inexpensive cars in its stable.

But there are faults, and for what purports to be a useful appliance that’s also satisfying to drive, one fault in particular is kind of glaring. Aside from the dual cupholders between the driver and front seat passenger, there’s no real place to put anything. Phone? Garage door opener? Bag of Twizzlers? Those will have to go in the passenger seat, or in the passenger’s lap. The previous Corolla was a modern marvel of cubbies, nooks, even the occasional squirrel hole, but not so much with this current model.

Is this enough to knock an otherwise great car out of contention? Man, it comes close. Only better-than-deserved driving dynamics and that hatch-accessed cargo area keep it from being a fatal flaw.

David S. Wallens David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

First, wow, it’s stunning. I know, right, I’m referring to a Corolla as a stunner. It really looked good. It’s not weird or awkward. Our car wore Classic Silver Metallic, and it looked classy.

And inside it looked and felt good, too–very upmarket. Smarty stitched leather covered the surfaces, including the dashboard. This is really a Corolla?

The interior doesn’t feature a ton of storage, though. It’s not as stark as an MX-5 in there, but just be warned that the Corolla Hatch doesn’t offer a zillion cubbies and cubicles.

Sadly, no, we didn’t get to drive the stick shift. Our tester had the CVT that simulates 10 sequential shifts. How’s it work? Not bad. You can toggle up and down through the gears with little to no delay. (I admit, after a few minutes, I got bored and let the computer do the work.)

The Road Sign Assist feature really does work. What’s that? The car can recognize certain road signs and relay that info to the driver–in case, like, you didn’t see them.

Closing thoughts: I’m not calling this the second coming of the FX-16 or even the hachiroku, but props to Toyota for offering the first sporting Corolla in decades.

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Fueled by Caffeine
Fueled by Caffeine MegaDork
11/12/18 10:23 a.m.

I think it's cool that toyota is starting to put a little styling and dynamics back into their cars..  it's been gone too long..  

Robbie
Robbie UltimaDork
11/12/18 10:24 a.m.

Yeah, I'd venture to say that's a good looking car!

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth Mod Squad
11/12/18 10:28 a.m.

I got to sit in one and crawl around it at the Toyota headquarters outside Dallas last spring. Nobody could really answer any questions for me, but I really liked it from an ergonomics and style standpoint. I would really like to drive a manual version of the car. 

Miles Wilson
Miles Wilson Reader Services
11/12/18 10:56 a.m.

You and I both Seth, I did a quick drive of the Scion iM when it was at the office. The chassis dynamics were... decent, but power was utterly nonexistent with the 1.8L. Like, a 1ZZ felt a lot more willing in older Corollas.

I'm curious if the nice flat 2.0L in this new iteration can improve an already good chassis. I don't see why not. Good on Toyota for making the ever-dwindling list of ads featuring a manual shifter.

FuzzWuzzy
FuzzWuzzy Reader
11/12/18 11:18 a.m.

That....looks pretty damn good.

Gonna have to do a 2019 hatchback battle at some point. Saw a video showing off the '19 Euro Focus hatch and....wooooo buddy. Makes me wish I was in the market for a brand new car.

Klayfish
Klayfish PowerDork
11/12/18 11:18 a.m.

Personally, I think the car is really good looking.  I love the blue color in the posted photo.  Could this thing be a serious Mazda3 fighter? 

Toyota, why do you only give it 168hp?  C'mon...how hard would it be to drop 225-250hp into the thing and make it a true hot hatch?

Duke
Duke MegaDork
11/12/18 11:31 a.m.
Fueled by Caffeine said:

I think it's cool that Toyota is starting to put a little styling back into their cars.

Yeah, "a little styling" is what they've needed after a few years of "way too much styling".

kman91
kman91 New Reader
11/12/18 11:34 a.m.

I don't know if there are many similarities between this and the iA (Yaris).  I know the iA is actually a Mazda2 (?!).

For what it's worth I drove the iA as my last extended rental, 1 week in California a few months back.  It didn't have a lot of power, but as small as it is, the engine felt better than the Nissan Versa I had (which wasn't hard). 

The beauty of the car was its handling.  It handled amazingly, and I'm used to my 2004 turbo Mazdaspeed Miata, so the bar is pretty high.  I kept throwing it in faster and faster corners and it held on tenaciously every time.  I was really impressed with that little car, and the gas mileage it got.  Sadly the engine wasn't a turbo, but otherwise a great little car.

But again, not sure how much it shares with this Corolla.

Carsandbikes
Carsandbikes New Reader
11/12/18 11:45 a.m.

So it is available with a manual, but no one has ever seen or tried it? Good luck finding one at a Toyota dealership.  BTW, the Corolla sedan is also available with a manual transmission....ever see one? 

I forgive the lack of storage cubbies, what I want to know is: with about average power for a non turbo, does this have direct injection? 

chitownwrx
chitownwrx New Reader
11/12/18 12:25 p.m.

In reply to Carsandbikes :

Direct and port injection.  No need to walnut blast or whatever!

nutherjrfan
nutherjrfan UltraDork
11/12/18 12:41 p.m.

Back seat legroom? I've heard it's not so good. That is a big thing for me even though I don't carry passengers. Strange I know.smiley

Brian_13
Brian_13 New Reader
11/12/18 1:25 p.m.
kman91 said:

I don't know if there are many similarities between this and the iA (Yaris).

...

But again, not sure how much it shares with this Corolla.

Nothing at all. Mazda and Toyota never shared any tech, just that supply deal for one model.

The Corolla is all-Toyota, on the same "GA-C" (compact) variant of the Toyota New Generation Architecture (TNGA) as the Prius and C-HR.

NGTD
NGTD UberDork
11/12/18 6:29 p.m.

Buy lots, so that when I'm looking for  used car in 10 years, it can be an option.

 

bigev007
bigev007 Reader
11/12/18 7:38 p.m.
nutherjrfan said:

Back seat legroom? I've heard it's not so good. That is a big thing for me even though I don't carry passengers. Strange I know.smiley

I had one as a tester a few weeks ago

They cut 3-4 inches of legroom vs the iM. Claims an abysmal 29.5-inches, but with the driver seat set for me, I had zero chance of even climbing in. Anything else in the class I can fit comfortably . It's extra strange because the wheelbase is longer than the iM

In short, zero rear legroom.

mr2s2000elise
mr2s2000elise Reader
11/12/18 10:25 p.m.

Does it have rear seat a/c vents ? 

mad_machine
mad_machine MegaDork
11/12/18 10:33 p.m.
Klayfish said:

Personally, I think the car is really good looking.  I love the blue color in the posted photo.  Could this thing be a serious Mazda3 fighter? 

Toyota, why do you only give it 168hp?  C'mon...how hard would it be to drop 225-250hp into the thing and make it a true hot hatch?

depending on the weight, it may not need that much. My Abarth gets along just fine at 2500 pounds and roughly 170hp. Nobody would call it slow unless you are facing it up against the newest crop of V8 powered ponycars

te72
te72 Reader
11/13/18 1:23 a.m.

Aww, the 1zz has finally grown up into 1990's Honda power... yes, I'm aware this is neither a 1zz powered car, nor is the power vs mpg in this new Corolla bad at all for the class. =)

 

A few thoughts though, at random:

-My 1980 Corolla weighed a full 1100 lbs less than this. Granted, it was about as bare bones as a car got, surprisingly, mine had the fancy "carpet" option box checked...

-88 lbs for the transmission? That seems kinda high for a small transmission, at least to me. If I remember correctly the R154 Supra transmissions are only about 110 lbs, and they're quite large compared to any FWD setup.

-I could get on board with calling this the FX-20 if they could figure out a way to drop a couple hundred pounds and maybe bump up the power by another 15-20hp... Gotta have stickers on the side proclaiming such a model designation though. No stickers, no deal. =P

Klayfish
Klayfish PowerDork
11/13/18 6:10 a.m.
mad_machine said:
Klayfish said:

Personally, I think the car is really good looking.  I love the blue color in the posted photo.  Could this thing be a serious Mazda3 fighter? 

Toyota, why do you only give it 168hp?  C'mon...how hard would it be to drop 225-250hp into the thing and make it a true hot hatch?

depending on the weight, it may not need that much. My Abarth gets along just fine at 2500 pounds and roughly 170hp. Nobody would call it slow unless you are facing it up against the newest crop of V8 powered ponycars

That depends on the individual perspective of speed.  I haven't driven the Abarth, but if you look at the C&D road test, it took 7.3 seconds to go 0-60.  They obviously had to abuse it to do that because the 5-60mph test took over 8 seconds.  To me, that's slow.  A 4cyl Camry is just as "fast" in the 5-60 run, the V6 would positively smoke it.  I'm not looking for a $25,000 car to run 0-60 in 3 seconds flat, but around 6 sec or lower was my entry criteria when I was shopping.  As I've said before, I'm done with the "driving a slow car fast is fun" thing.

Vigo
Vigo UltimaDork
11/13/18 9:11 a.m.

88 lbs for the transmission? That seems kinda high for a small transmission, at least to me. If I remember correctly the R154 Supra transmissions are only about 110 lbs, and they're quite large compared to any FWD setup.

FWD transmissions have a differential in them. 

They obviously had to abuse it to do that because the 5-60mph test took over 8 seconds.

Not really, that just means that if you punch it from 5mph in first gear you will have noticeable turbo lag. 

 

I'm very glad they got the looks and power right on this gen, but the lack of rear seat room and storage is an odd form of progress for such a mainstream car.  

MadScientistMatt
MadScientistMatt PowerDork
11/13/18 9:18 a.m.
Vigo said:

Not really, that just means that if you punch it from 5mph in first gear you will have noticeable turbo lag. 

 

The 5-60 tests are also typically done in the top gear rather than with normal downshifting with a manual, while automatics are permitted to downshift.

Klayfish
Klayfish PowerDork
11/13/18 10:41 a.m.
MadScientistMatt said:
Vigo said:

Not really, that just means that if you punch it from 5mph in first gear you will have noticeable turbo lag. 

 

The 5-60 tests are also typically done in the top gear rather than with normal downshifting with a manual, while automatics are permitted to downshift.

To my knowledge, and I could be wrong, the 5-60mph tests are done with a manual trans starting in 1st gear and an auto in "D".  You may be thinking of the 30-50 or 50-70mph tests? 

If the 5-60 is pretty far off the 0-60 time, then to me that says they had to do a serious clutch drop, brake torque or some other form of mechanical torture to get that 0-60 number.  The 5-60mph is more reflective of normal driving patterns.  So yeah, if a car has significant turbo lag or a serious lack of low end torque, it'll show up in that test. 

Either way, I think the Corolla hatch looks promising.  I'd love to see it with a better engine option to match.

Mr. Lee
Mr. Lee UberDork
11/13/18 2:52 p.m.

As someone who looked at a Corolla XSE earlier this year, but went with the IM due to the hatchback I'm eyeing the new hatch with some interest. Few quibbles with the IM, but otherwise it's been a decent little car.  And as for the comment about finding a dealership with a manual trans car in stock, we had our choice of 3 different colors in a manual trans, but ended up with the auto just due to my wife worrying about her mother possibly having to drive on their annual road trips. (her car, her choice)  

My complaints with the IM (which the 'rolla hopefully addresses) in manual flavor was with the down shifting and rev matching. You couldn't do it, well I'm sure you could, but it wasn't going to happen in a hurry. you were just better of downshifting it, accepting the forward momentum hit of waiting for the engine to spin up, and then going from there. The electronic throttle body, made blipping the throttle impossible. Even SWMBO complained about it.

The other is power. The 1zz just doesn't have it, now it will happily spin up, and keep spinning up high, in fact getting it spinning up around highway speeds and above it's quite responsive, and much more pleasurable to drive.  You actually get better acceleration leaving it in drive and just matting the go pedal vs playing with the "manual" mode, though it's handy if you want to hold a higher rpm through a long sweeping corner (think on/off ramps). If you're at a dead stop, a little left foot braking to get the rpms up before you start rolling will help, but get too aggressive with it, and the computer takes all the fun out of it.  In fact you can't disable the nannies on the IM at least. Press and hold the Traction control button from a dead stop and the dash will light up after about 5 seconds telling you all the safeties have been removed, but if you start aggressively, and have wheel spin the computer takes back over and kills the throttle. (tested in the rain on a paint stripe)

Vigo
Vigo UltimaDork
11/13/18 3:07 p.m.

If the 5-60 is pretty far off the 0-60 time, then to me that says they had to do a serious clutch drop, brake torque or some other form of mechanical torture to get that 0-60 number.

I really don't know if I would call that torture...

I guess if you wanted cars whose 5-60 were pretty close to their 'i'm actually trying' 0-60 time, that would tend toward large displacement engines hooked to automatic transmissions. 

iceracer
iceracer UltimaDork
11/13/18 5:10 p.m.

I just saw an add that the new Corolla now has independent front suspension.surprise

Mndsm
Mndsm MegaDork
11/13/18 5:58 p.m.

Swmbo wants one. We all know how I feel about corollas and hatchbacks. Game on. 

SyntheticBlinkerFluid
SyntheticBlinkerFluid UltimaDork
11/13/18 7:22 p.m.

I can tell you for sure that they have been showing a lot of the manual transmission on their TV commercials 

RyanW
RyanW New Reader
11/13/18 9:04 p.m.

I am a Toyota tech and the first one we got was a black manual. felt like it wanted to rotate and it was actually 'fun' compared to all the other new toyotas

mr2s2000elise
mr2s2000elise Reader
11/13/18 10:36 p.m.
RyanW said:

I am a Toyota tech and the first one we got was a black manual. felt like it wanted to rotate and it was actually 'fun' compared to all the other new toyotas

Do they have rear seat ac vents?

GTwannaB
GTwannaB HalfDork
11/13/18 10:43 p.m.

Seriously, for a magazine about driving, feedback and performance you are ragging on the lack of cup holders? I guess I am weird in that I don't eat in my car and once in a while I have a bottle of water. My kids have holders in their seats. It is not a minivan for a family of 12. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
11/14/18 10:07 a.m.
Robbie said:

Yeah, I'd venture to say that's a good looking car!

I know, right? JG picked us up with it for lunch. I was like, Who's here with the Lexus? Then we ate Chinese food. 

Brian_13
Brian_13 New Reader
11/15/18 5:11 p.m.

In reply to iceracer :

laugh

Perhaps it was just a typo, intended to identify the (new for this year in North America) independent rear suspension. Most people who write ads have no idea about the product. Even Toyota's corporate offices publish stupid things, such as calling this rear suspension "double wishbone" (hint: it's not, and that's okay).

te72
te72 Reader
11/22/18 1:08 p.m.
Vigo said:

88 lbs for the transmission? That seems kinda high for a small transmission, at least to me. If I remember correctly the R154 Supra transmissions are only about 110 lbs, and they're quite large compared to any FWD setup.

FWD transmissions have a differential in them. 

You know, I never realized that, that's pretty impressive actually. I'm not a FWD guy, if you couldn't tell, I owned ONE as my first car, back when I didn't really care much about cars, nor know much about them.

 

Will be interesting to see how these do on the autocross tracks, I hear good things about the TNG platform cars so far.

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